Loudspeaker types

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Loudspeaker types
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Small, large, electrostatic? Here's our short, concise guide.





SMALL SHELF MOUNTERS (about 25cm high, 0.3cu ft / 8 litres max.)



Shelf mounters are inexpensive, easy to accommodate in the home and can offer excellent sound quality, in terms of imaging and low colouration, as well as basic tonal accuracy.


They have little deep bass. Worse, miniatures have very low sensitivity and need plenty of power to go loud, at least 40 Watts. Give them too much, however, and they’ll distort or even burn out, because small voice coils have low thermal capacity.

For use hard against a rear wall the port is usually positioned on the front panel and bass will be contoured to compensate for the wall’s influence. Typical of the breed are KEF iQ10s.



STAND MOUNTERS (about 35cm high, 0.8 cu ft / 22 litres max.)



Large stand mounters can go very low, down to 40Hz or so, the limit of string bass instruments, so they commonly have quite weighty bass. Further up the scale their small cabinets and cones keep the sound clean. It’s a good compromise between performance and size.


Too large to fit comfortably on a  shelf, this size of loudspeaker is designed for stand mounting - and that consumes floor space, as much as a floorstander. Neither fish nor foul then. Won’t do heavy subsonics either.


FLOOR STANDERS (about 1m high, 2.4 cu ft / 68 litres max.)



They go low and are able to give floor shaking bass. Modern 1m high or so floor standers can go very low, down to 30Hz or so, although not all manufacturers design for this. B&W and KEF cut their floorstanders off around 40Hz to keep bass sounding ‘fast’.


A 1m high floorstander occupies little more space than a  standmounter, and a narrow front baffle aids imaging, especially if it is curved at its edges.


Finally, floorstanders are usually sensitive, some very sensitive, meaning 90dB or more from just one watt. Big, powerful amplifiers are not needed; 40W will do.


Floorstanders are visually intrusive and are best sited away from walls, meaning they consume a lot of floor space. For best results they should sit firmly on the floor, and are weighty to aid this. Spikes are best used too, for sound quality and stability.


Tuning a port to a low 30Hz or lower adds weight to deep bass, but slows the sound and can produce ponderous bass. If it coincides with a  room mode then 'room boom' will occur.



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